April 7, 2011

Beer and Your Genes: A Brew for Cancer?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A big beer belly isn't the only concern for heavy beer drinkers. People who drink a significant amount of beer and have a specific genetic variant in the cluster of three genes that metabolize alcohol have a significantly higher risk of developing non-cardiac gastric cancer, according to a new study.

Study results also showed that the same risk is also elevated (but not as significantly) for heavy beer drinkers who do not have the variant.

"This is a classic gene-environment interaction," Eric Duell, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist in the Cancer Epidemiology Research Program at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain was quoted as saying. "Having both of these risks -- heavy beer consumption and rs1230025 -- appears to be worse in terms of gastric cancer risk than having just one or neither."

Gastric cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide, but because some countries, such as the United States, have much lower rates of gastric cancer than others, Duell believes this disease has a stronger environmental component than a genetic component.
Duell and colleagues conducted a comprehensive analysis of alcohol consumption and gastric cancer risk in the more than 521,000 people aged 35 to 70 years old.

Results showed that drinking 30 grams of pure ethanol/alcohol or more a day from beer was linked to a 75-percent increased risk of developing gastric cancer. One 12-ounce beer contains about 13 grams of pure alcohol/ethanol. Wine and liquor were not associated with gastric cancer risk, Duell said.

The exact mechanism for how alcohol may cause gastric cancer is not known. However, Duell said there are compelling hypotheses involving the metabolite of alcohol (acetaldehyde, a toxic and carcinogenic compound) and nitrosamines such as N-nitrosodimethylamine (a known animal carcinogen that has been found in beer).

SOURCE: AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held in Orlando, FL from April 2-6, 2011